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Sitting Shiva

Dear Rabbi,

My name is Betty, and first off i am not Jewish, however, my stepmother is. I know thatI am not going to spell this correctly so please forgive me. I am looking for information on "Sitting Shivah."

My grandmother has just left this world to join her loved ones in what I was taught to be heaven.This happened on Sunday, March 16, 1997. She passed at the home of my father and stepmother.and I am relieved that she is no longer in any pain from the cancer. Sandy, my stepmother,is a wonderful and loving person, and an incredible lady.

But what I don't understandis when my grandmother died, my stepmother started to cover up all of the mirrors and anything thatcould give a reflection. I would so much like to help her in her grief. I believe that family shouldstick together no matter what. She has taken this death very hard. Is there anything I could do to giveher comfort? Maybe a passage from the Bible or Torah that you could recommend? I realize that I am askingvery difficult questions.

During the last week of my grandmother's life, Sandy read to her fromthe Bible, she read the Book of Psalms so much that I truly believed that she may have memorized it. So, in turn,I would like to do something for her, maybe you could please provide me with a suggestion or two.

Now I realize that I am rattling on, and not making much sense. I do hope that you could understand thatI truly love Sandy. She is a wonderful lady. I thought maybe doing a Jewish custom would make her feelbetter and help her with her grief.

Please forgive my ignorance.





Dear Betty,

First let me tell you how sorry I am about your loss.Judaism teaches that there is life after death, yet we still miss the deceased and mourn their loss.May God send you and your family comfort.

During Shiva, it is indeed traditional to cover the mirrors.That is because during this period of intense sorrow, we are to focus on grieving.Distractions like worrying about our appearances are out of place,since we need to be able to feel badly and to cry about the death without worrying about mundanedetails like our looks.

Your stepmother read Psalms because they are a great source of comfort,and have been for the past few thousand years. Perhaps you might offer to read some with her,since you will show her respect for her tradition while also demonstrating that you will stickby her in her sorrow.

In addition to joining her in Bible readings, you should beespecially careful about her feelings now. She is mourning a terrible loss, and your lovecan help remind her that there is still so much to live for.



Rabbi Artson


Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson serves as the Dean of the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies,and is the author of The Bedside Torah. All letters to Dear Rabbi require a name,address, and telephone number for purposes of verification. Our readers should know that when namesare used in a letter, they are fictitious. Dear Rabbi welcomes your letters. Responses canbe given only in the newspaper. Mail letters to Dear Rabbi, c/o The Ziegler School ofRabbinic Studies, 15600 Mulholland Drive, Bel Air, California 90077-1599; or e-mail
Hebrew for "my master," the term refers to a spiritual leader and teacher of Torah. Often, but not always, a rabbi is the leader of a synagogue congregation. The first five books of the Hebrew Bible (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy), or the scroll that contains them.
Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson

Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson serves as the Dean of the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies, and is the author of The Bedside Torah.

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